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Pam R

eGCI Demo: Knishes

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Knishes

According to Wikipedia a knish is:

Quote
an eastern-European Jewish or Yiddish snack food. It is a dumpling covered with a dough shell that is either baked or fried.

My grandmother would plotz if she knew people were frying their knishes! I’ve sampled them in both Toronto and New York. Compared to the flaky-crusted, tender knishes I’ve been raised on they didn’t make the grade – but I’m sure they appeal to some :wink: .

Like many Jewish foods popular in North America, knishes were created by eastern European Jews who wanted to add some variety to their humdrum diets. By wrapping dough around kasha (buckwheat) or potatoes they made something new and interesting out of rather mundane ingredients. All inexpensive items, they were staples of the peasant diets. As is common across the world, these inexpensive items are what became traditional foods full of wonderful memories for future generations.

This is how I make my potato and onion knishes. It’s not that different from how my grandmother made hers (other than the fact that I let a machine do the hard work). When I take the time to make them, it throws me back to Friday night dinners at Baba’s house. When knishes were on the menu they were always snatched up by all of her children and grandchildren.

The Recipe

The recipe for Potato and Onion Knishes is located here in RecipeGullet. Step by step directions are included in this thread.

The Dough

4 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

2 large eggs

1 cup oil 

1 cup warm water

2 tsp. white vinegar

 

Some recipes use puff pastry, some use phyllo, some use a dough made of flour, water and egg that is rolled out with a rolling pin. The best knishes use a stretch dough – similar to a strudel dough – that is stretched out across large tables as thinly as humanly possible. When you roll the stretch dough around the fillings, you create thin, flaky layers.

Dough ingredients – flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, canola oil, white vinegar and warm water.

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Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a dough hook and mix briefly. This can be done by hand, but using a machine makes it so much easier. I’ve also tried this recipe using a food-processor with a regular blade and it will do if you don’t have a mixer.

Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add all of the wet ingredients:

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Mix on low until most of the ingredients are combined, then turn the mixer to high and knead for 8-10 minutes:

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When the dough has been kneaded enough, it should be smooth and you should be able to see little bubbles beneath the surface of the dough (unfortunately the photo doesn’t allow you to see this):

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If you are not using a stand mixer, use a spoon or your hands to get everything mixed together. Next, I was taught, you must slap the dough onto a counter 100 times, giving it the occasional kneading. (I told you the mixer was an easier method).

Divide the dough in two, and form into two balls. Cover each with plastic wrap and let it hang out for at least an hour, relaxing at room temperature.

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While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.

The Fillings

The best thing about a knish is that you can fill it with many different things. Let your imagination run wild. The most common (and one of the best) fillings is potato and onion. Onions sautéed until a deep golden brown – adding a caramelized sweetness to the boiled potatoes. Add some vegetables (spinach and mushrooms are two popular choices) or cheese (cheddar mixed with potato or cottage cheese on its own), maybe some kasha (buckwheat) or grind up some chicken or liver for a meat version.

Potato and Onion Filling

3 Tbsp. oil or schmaltz

1 lb. yellow onion, peeled and chopped

3 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cut in half

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. black pepper

 

My preference is for red potatoes and yellow cooking onions. As a general rule, I find baking potatoes too dry. The problem is that sometimes reds are too wet! 9 times out of 10 I use straight red potatoes – but if I know that they are especially wet, I’ll add a couple of bakers to lower some of the moisture content.

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Cook onions in oil or schmaltz for 30-35 minutes over medium to medium high heat. I use a non-stick pan as I have a tendency to walk away and do something else – but use whatever you like. The onions should turn a deep, dark brown without burning. They won’t start to brown for at least 15 minutes – if you find them browning much before that, turn the heat down. Stir every 1-3 minutes, making sure that nothing is burning at the bottom of the pan.

While the onions cook, place the peeled potatoes into a large pot with cold water. Cover and place over high heat – bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes very well and mash. I prefer a potato masher over a food mill or ricer because I like the final knish to have some small potato chunks (I want to know there’s real potato in there!).

Add the deep brown onions, salt, black pepper and garlic powder.

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Mix everything together, taste and adjust seasoning. Make sure you can taste the seasoning – you’re going to wrap a dough around this that will suck out some of the flavour.

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Cool (but don’t chill) and proceed to the next step.

Stretching and Forming

When I was young, my grandmother and great-aunts would place a clean, beautiful linen cloth on the kitchen or dining room table to stretch there dough on. We no longer use the linen – finding it easier to stretch the dough if it is actually able to stick a little to the table.

First you must roll the dough into a long rectangle:

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Start to gently stretch the dough. Place your hand under the edge of the dough and gently pull towards you. Work your way around the table, pulling in every direction.

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The dough will probably tear in places – that’s ok. Just try to avoid any really large holes.

I like to gently hit the dough/table with an open palm as I stretch, to stick the dough to the table and keep it from rolling back over itself.

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All stretched out:

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Use a paring knife to trim the thick dough on the outer edges:

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Here is a close-up of the stretched dough – I hope you can see the little bubbles that have formed in the dough – this is good:

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Place a row of filling about 1- inch from the edge of a long side of the dough Use ½ of the filling you’ve made. (For a small, hors d’ouevres size knish, cut the dough in half lengthwise – then place a much smaller row of filling along the edge and proceed.):

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Start pulling the edge of the dough up and over the filling:

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Continue to roll the filling in the dough, gently pulling the rope towards you stretching the dough a little more, until you have one long rope:

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Pinch the rope where you would like to cut the dough. This is where you decide how large you’d like the knish to be:

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Then twist the dough where you want to cut it:

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Then use the side of your hand to saw the knish off of the rope:

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Continue to do this until the entire rope has been cut up:

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This is a pre-shaped knishes that has been well cut and just needs to be shaped:

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Here’s a knish that didn’t cut quite as well. You need to stretch the dough over the edges and pinch them together if this happens – or you can use a piece of scrap dough to help cover holes:

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Whether it had to be patched, or it was well cut, you still need to pinch both the top and the bottom, to ensure that the holes stay closed:

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Press down to create an indentation in the middle of the knish:

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All trayed up and ready for the oven – the ones on the right have some sautéed mushrooms on them (they also have sautéed mushrooms mixed into the potato/onion mixture):

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Into a 350º convection oven (375º conventional). They will bake for 15-25 minutes depending on your oven. Always check them after 15 minutes and see how they’re doing. They’re done when golden brown.

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(If some of them split a little as they bake, gently push the filling back in.)

A view from the inside (the picture doesn't quite do justice to the skin, but I think it gives you an idea of the layers):

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Helpful Hints

Once all of the kneading is done, the dough can be used for later use. Place each dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment, freeze then wrap well with plastic or place in a freezer bag. Pull them out of the freezer the night before you want to use them and thaw, on a baking sheet covered in plastic wrap. A couple of hours before you need them pull them out of the fridge and let them come up to room temperature – then stretch away

Knishes are also great frozen – as long as you freeze them before you bake them. Freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment – when they’re frozen transfer to a freezer bag or container. Pull them out as you want them and bake them – no need to thaw. The cooking time for frozen knishes won’t be all that different from fresh – maybe an additional 5 minutes.


Edited by Pam R Add recipe. (log)

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These knishes look amazing, Pam -- and very different from the dense knishes I got to know on the lower east side of NYC. (For the denizens, I'm thinking of Jonah Schimmel.) Those tended to be significantly less laminated, I think, if at all; I'd bet that there was one dough layer, instead of many, creating a far more dense version. The fried knishes at Katz's would break plexiglas.

Are we talking about two different knish traditions? Or, as you seem to imply here, is it a quality issue?

edited to clarify who fried and who didn't -- Yonah only bakes, according to the website -- CA

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Much appreciation, Pam. This is definitely something which needs to be learnt from a pictorial demo. Are there other filling variations?

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Great demo. Thank you so much. The last time I had a knish was on the boardwalk at Brighton Beach, about a million years ago. Brings back memories.

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This is great thanks. Growing up in Brooklyn I was only ever exposed to the fried knishes, for which I still and always will have a special place in my heart (and stomach).

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Wonderful pictorial - views almost like a movie.

My grandmother made cheese knishes with a dough like yours. She filled them with a combination of farmer and cottage cheese and a little sugar. Then she rolled them and formed them into compact "S" about 8" in length and 4" across and fulled her baking dish. I can taste them just thinking about them. They were glorious.

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Wow. They're really stunning.

Do you ever make cheese knishes, or anything sweetish? If so, do you use the same dough for the outside?

Wow again.

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These knishes look amazing, Pam -- and very different from the dense knishes I got to know on the lower east side of NYC. (For the denizens, I'm thinking of Jonah Schimmel.) Those tended to be significantly less laminated, I think, if at all; I'd bet that there was one dough layer, instead of many, creating a far more dense version. The fried knishes at Katz's would break plexiglas.

Are we talking about two different knish traditions? Or, as you seem to imply here, is it a quality issue?

Thanks Chris. They are quite different from most of the NY knishes I've seen (though in November I had one at Zabars that was the closest I've had there - though still not the same). A few years ago I tried one at Katz's ... and let's just say one was enough.

I'm not sure why two very different things are both 'knishes'. If you stuff the same filling into a dough and boil them, they're perogies. In a puff pastry pocket, they're burekes. I've tried to find some more info about the fried knish and haven't been all that successful.. but I'm not done my research. Who knows? There may yet be a posting from me with a fried knish demo.

Though I can't find much info, I do think it's a tradition thing. Perhaps the fried knish was popular in another part of Europe (one side of my family is from Russia, the other from Poland - both sides made them this way) - perhaps it was an American take on a knish (I read somewhere that a fried knish is a 'Coney Island knish'). I just don't know. If I find out though, I'll let you know.

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Much appreciation, Pam. This is definitely something which needs to be learnt from a pictorial demo. Are there other filling variations?

There are lots of fillings. Some that I have tried or seen:

Potato & Cheddar

Broccoli & Cheese

Cottage Cheese

Spinach & Cottage Cheese or Farmers Cheese or Feta

Potato & Chicken or Beef

Potato & Liver

Kasha/Buckwheat (my favorite)

Sweet Rice

Pretty much anything with potatoes - potatoes are a good filling because they are inexpensive, so they stretch the more expensive items - and they bind other ingredients.

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This is great thanks. Growing up in Brooklyn I was only ever exposed to the fried knishes, for which I still and always will have a special place in my heart (and stomach).

You can still feel them eh? :wink:

That's the problem with fried knishes! :biggrin:

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Wow. They're really stunning.

Do you ever make cheese knishes, or anything sweetish? If so, do you use the same dough for the outside?

Wow again.

We do make cheese knishes with the same dough - but we don't make them sweet. We use cottage cheese and serve them with sour cream and (thawed) frozen strawberries.

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In my vernacular, the distinction between fried and baked knishes was referred to as square versus round (square knishes = fried; round knishes = baked). I haven't got a clue as to why square knishes are never baked and round knishes are never fried -- I have never in my life witnessed a departure from that system -- but it seems to be the case.

You can get square or round at Katz's, by the way. I prefer round, making the knish one of the only things in the universe that is better baked than fried.

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I'm totally a round knish person as well. Although I have been known to engage in the occasional Gabila's. Even buy packs of them at supermarkets. I'm ashamed.

More important than the round versus square issue though, is what's the more serious knish -- Kasha or Potato? I'm more of a Kasha knish person than a potato knish person, although I enjoy both. However, I will add to that qualification that I think Kasha knishes should be a potato/Kasha blend, and not be 100 percent kasha.

BTW Steven, you're wrong about the squares always being fried -- in a number of orthodox, glatt kosher restaurants/delis I have been to, I've seen this log-type squarish knish that has the filling exposed on two sides due to cutting it off the log, which are baked with an egg wash on top. Its not a common type, but I've encountered them like 20 percent of the time.

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In my vernacular, the distinction between fried and baked knishes was referred to as square versus round (square knishes = fried; round knishes = baked). I haven't got a clue as to why square knishes are never baked and round knishes are never fried -- I have never in my life witnessed a departure from that system -- but it seems to be the case.

You can get square or round at Katz's, by the way. I prefer round, making the knish one of the only things in the universe that is better baked than fried.

Years ago I had my first fried knish in TO - it was completely round - the size of a soft-ball. We refer to it as the cannonball knish :blink: . This past November while in Toronto I saw some that were more of a torpedo shape.

I've never seen a fried knish here in Winnipeg.

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I too have never seen a fried knish in Winnipeg.

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More important than the round versus square issue though, is what's the more serious knish -- Kasha or Potato? I'm more of a Kasha knish person than a potato knish person, although I enjoy both. However, I will add to that qualification that I think Kasha knishes should be a potato/Kasha blend, and not be 100 percent kasha.

I agree completely... and that's how we make 'em. Along with the important fried onions.

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Yes, you totally need the fried onions. And a can of Cel Ray to wash the sucker down with. And a pastrami sandwich. And a king-sized box of Kirkland antacid tablets from Costco.

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Holy Knish, Pam! thanks for this pictorial/tutorial, I've always wanted to know how to shape a knish properly. I, myself agree with Jason, there is NOTHING like a kasha knish, if it's made well. But, I think that a kasha knish is also the easiest knish to ruin. SO, I rarely order them unless I have seen the filling. No potatoes= dry kasha= blechh. I have read a few reports recently here on eGullet (bagel making, knish making!) which really DO require a mixer. I so wish that I hadn't sold both of mine in a frenzy of ePay!

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Thanks, Pam, for this interesting demo. I have not had a knish in a very long time. Looks like fun to make.

Add me to the growing list of those who have never, ever seen a fried Knish in Winnepeg.

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I too have never seen a fried knish in Winnipeg.

Add me to the growing list of those who have never, ever seen a fried Knish in Winnepeg.

:raz:

Mock away my friends - but Winnipeg has a long Jewish food history It once had a very large Jewish community. Back in the 50's there were 11 kosher butchers and many bakeries and delis - nothing compared to NY, but considering the population of Winnipeg back then (even now) it's impressive.

To this day we get more than 50 orders a year for knishes 'packed to travel'. Our knishes have flown to both coasts of Canada and the US and everywhere in between.

Our population is made up of immigrants from across Europe, the Middle East and now South America. Yet I've never seen a fried knish here - which makes me wonder if it is an American take on the knish - though this doesn't explain why Toronto has them. I think that was my point :wink:

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I'm so glad you showed the stretch technique, warts and tears and all. It's great to know that even if there are tears all along the edges, it will still roll up to a beautiful log. I'm sure if I hadn't seen it myself, if mine started tearing like that, I'd have figured it was screwed upl

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Those look great Pam. Next time you come to Israel, you can come over and give me a lesson.

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Wow Pam, amazing kinshes!

There used to be a Kosher bakery on W. 181st where I grew up. Real old school place(might still be there) called Greenblats or Greenbaums, cant remember which now. They made them this way and sold them still warm if you were lucky...we would run home, cut them open and pump in the yellow mustard. :wub:

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